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UN convention emphasizes human diversity but we are still far from realization

Disability issues

23 Mar 2016

When negotiations started to formulate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UNCRPD, only 80 states and a small number of disability organizations were present. At the last meeting states was represented by 800 delegates and disability organizations by hundreds of representatives.

During the conference “Disability Policies and The Impact of the UNCRPD in the Nordic region” in Helsinki, Ms Liisa Kauppinen, honorary president of the World Federation of the Deaf, talked about the long process that eventually led to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UNCRPD. The process also led to a boost for the cooperation among international disability organizations.

Attitudes must change

The active participation of disability organizations was one of the main success factors in the formulation of the Convention, which embodies a new perspective, a different outlook: People with disabilities have exactly the same human rights as others. Attitudes are the problem, not the individuals:

– The society prevents us from participating in decision-making processes – UNCRPD confirms that we all have the same basic human rights and freedoms.
During the negotiations there was a lot of discussion about the definition of disability, but eventually perspectives changed:

– It was very wise to look at disability without a precise definition – it is attitudes that cause problems, said Ms Liisa Kauppinen. The key idea is to talk about diversity and to see us as part of this human diversity.

UNCRPD and the private sector

The conference was opened with speeches by Mr Juha Rehula, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Ms Stina Sjöblom, president of the Council for Nordic Cooperation on Disability, and Mr Stig Langvad, member of the Control Committee of the UNCRPD. Ms Lisa Waddington, Professor of Law at Maastricht University, was also one of the keynote speakers. She focused on the private sector’s role in the implementation of the Convention. Although it is the states that are parties to the Convention, many of the commintments can´t be fulfilled without the participation of the private sector.

This means that states must take active part in preventing individuals and organizations in the private sector from exercising discrimination. The private sector must be required to implement reasonable accommodation of the goods and services it provides, so that people with disabilities have access to them.

Nordic strategies forget the private sector

After a review of the Convention’s deeper meaning when it comes to the responsibility of states in relation to the private sector,  Ms Lisa Waddington continued with a review of the strategies of the Nordic countries.

One of her conclusions is that the Nordic schemes and programs have a tendency to ignore the private sector, although the sector’s active participation is a prerequisite for all human rights are to be met.

 Version på svenska


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